How 3D Systems Is Trying to Become the Next Apple


Among all the breakthroughs we saw at last week's Consumer Electronics Show, 3D Systems' new CubeX desktop printer could be the most intriguing.

Relatively affordable at $2,499 (the second-generation entry-level Cube starring in the video below starts at $1,299) and capable of printing basketball-sized objects in tricolor -- a feat that used to require a system orders of magnitude more expensive -- the CubeX is perhaps the most aggressive try yet at making 3-D printing a must-have capability for small businesses and hobbyists. CNET named the device one of its "Best of CES" as a result.

Unfortunately, awards don't necessarily make for mass-market acceptance and 3-D printing has yet to tip the scales. But that also may not be a bad thing. As we see it, 3D Systems and low-end peers such as MakerBot are today where Apple was before the LaserWriter and Aldus' PageMaker software helped give rise to the desktop publishing industry.

Will 3D Systems enjoy its own PageMaker moment? The Cube and CubeX look too unassuming to be that rebellious. We liken the boxy CubeX, in particular, to an Easy Bake Oven crossbred with an inkjet printer, with the obvious difference being that only the CubeX can "print" a basketball-sized object in three colors.

But as analysts for David Gardner's Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter service, we also know that mass-market breakthroughs are rarely obvious or predictable. What do you think of the new Cube printers? Click the video to see the device in action and then weigh in using the comments box below.

More Expert Advice from The Motley Fool
3D Systems is at the leading edge of a disruptive technological revolution, with the broadest portfolio of 3-D printers in the industry. However, despite years of earnings growth, 3D Systems' share price has risen even faster, and today the company sports a dizzying valuation. To help investors decide whether the future of additive manufacturing is bright enough to justify the lofty price tag on the company's shares, The Motley Fool has compiled a premium research report on whether 3D Systems is a buy right now. In our report, we take a close look at 3D Systems' opportunities, risks, and critical factors for growth. You'll also find reasons to buy or sell, and receive a full year of analyst updates with the report. To start reading, simply click here now for instant access.

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Fool contributors Tim Beyers and Karl Thiel are members of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. Tim and Karl both owned shares of Apple at the time of publication.The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. The Fool owns shares of and has created a covered strangle position on 3D Systems. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple and 3D Systems. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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